Tag Archives: callum

Mark Halsey referee Callum McManaman tackle Massadio Haidara pulled from Premier League

Ref Halsey DROPPED to League One after Haidara horror tackle at Wigan

By
David Kent

PUBLISHED:

01:43 GMT, 26 March 2013

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UPDATED:

07:59 GMT, 26 March 2013

Mark Halsey, the official who did not send off Callum McManaman for his high tackle on Massadio Haidara, has not been given a Barclays Premier League game to referee this weekend.

Halsey did not issue a red card to Wigan striker McManaman during his side's 2-1 win over Newcastle on March 17 because, he said later, his view of the challenge on Haidara was blocked.

Shocker: Halsey failed to punish Wigan's Callum McManaman for this 'challenge' on Massadio Haidara

Shocker: Halsey failed to punish Wigan's Callum McManaman for this 'challenge' on Massadio Haidara

Dropped: Halsey will take charge of Friday's League One clash between Coventry and Doncaster

Dropped: Halsey will take charge of Friday's League One clash between Coventry and Doncaster

Because of the international break, this weekend will be the first round of Premier League fixtures since the incident, and Halsey's only top-flight outing will be as the fourth official for Reading's trip to Arsenal.

McManaman's tackle was greeted with outrage, but could not be punished in retrospect by the Football Association because one of Halsey's two assistants saw the incident, provoking a debate about the merits of disciplinary system.

Halsey will referee Friday's npower League One game between Coventry and Doncaster.

Aston Villa 1 Olympiakos 0 – NextGen match report

Aston Villa 1 Olympiakos 0: Burke fires dominant Villans in to NextGen semi-finals

By
Janine Self

PUBLISHED:

21:56 GMT, 20 March 2013

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UPDATED:

23:41 GMT, 20 March 2013

The present may be somewhat rocky for Aston Villa but the future is looking bright and rosy.

Graham Burke’s first-half goal was enough to see the U19s through to the semi-finals of the NextGen Series at Lake Como over Easter.

But it took a brilliant late save by Brad Watkins from a ridiculously long-range free kick by Leandro Pinto to make sure in a nervy finale.

On target: Graham Burke of Aston Villa (centre) celebrates after firing his side through

On target: Graham Burke of Aston Villa (centre) celebrates after firing his side through

Denied: Jack Grealish has his shot saved by Eleftherids Choutesiotis of Olympiacos

Denied: Jack Grealish has his shot saved by Eleftherids Choutesiotis of Olympiacos

Last year Villa went out at the quarter-final stage and the defeat against Marseille has clearly rankled ever since.

A season on, the side skippered by Sami Carruthers has come on in leaps and bounds. So much so that Sporting Lisbon, PSV Eindhoven and Ajax number among the Villa scalps.

Villa owner Randy Lerner is a big believer in the homegrown system so would have been delighted to see a healthy crowd in the upper tier of the North Stand.

Surprisingly there were also a fair few Olympiakos supporters too, who generated plenty of noise on a freezing night. Hardly Greek weather, though.

The visiting players did not give them much to cheer in the first half as Villa pretty much took control from the first moment.

Carruthers, who has already had a fleeting introduction to the first-team squad, was a steady influence while striker Callum Robinson made quite a nuisance of himself.

The Olympiakos fans even booed when he was in possession, a major compliment to any player.

It was Robinson who fired the first shot in anger, a routine effort which still had Eleftherids Choutesiotis scrambling to block.

A couple of minutes later and Villa were in the lead through Burke, who took advantage of a bouncing ball in the area to poke it past the keeper.

That signalled a spell of superiority when Villa could easily have increased their lead and should have. It would have saved a lot of worry later on.

Tussle: Jordan Lyden and Dimitrios Siopis of Olympiacos compete for the ball

Tussle: Jordan Lyden and Dimitrios Siopis of Olympiacos compete for the ball

Carruthers fed Josh Barton, whose shot was batted away by a less than sure-gloved Choutesiotis.

Robinson also had a couple of openings but had his first shot cleared for a corner and the second one, after a wonderful turn, rolled wide of a post.

Whether it was the temperature, the stadium or just nerves, Olympiakos took an age to get into the tie but, once they did, they caused a few scares.

It meant that an under-worked Watkins in the Villa goal suddenly had something to do. He did it well, too, gathering Dimitrios Siopis’s low shot and pushing the same player’s next attempt wide.

That set the scene for the start of the second half. This time it was Klodian Gino who twice held his head in his hands after clipping woodwork and seeing the ball drift just wide.

Midfield battle: Konstantinos Rougkalas fights for the ball with Burke

Midfield battle: Konstantinos Rougkalas fights for the ball with Burke

Just as the one-goal lead was beginning to look somewhat fragile, Villa’s Republic of Ireland U17 player of the year, Grealish showed what a prospect he could be.

One jinking run sliced through the Olympiakos defence and should have been capped with a goal. Sadly for Grealish, he hit the post instead.

Minutes later the previously uncertain Choutesiostis proved that when it comes to reflex saves he is a master. Somehow he kept out Grealish’s close-range header, which meant his team-mates stayed in the hunt.

With a minute to go Pinto from 40 yards out forced Watkins into a flying save and Villa were on the plane to Italy.

Leap: Villa's Callum Robinson is challenged by Leandro Climacci Pinto

Leap: Villa's Callum Robinson is challenged by Leandro Climacci Pinto

FA Cup semi-final draw 2013: Manchester City v Manchester United/Chelsea, Wigan v Millwall/Blackburn

FA Cup semi-final draw: City await winners of Chelsea and United replay in last four

PUBLISHED:

18:45 GMT, 10 March 2013

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UPDATED:

19:34 GMT, 10 March 2013

FA CUP SEMI-FINAL DRAW

Millwall/Blackburn v Wigan

Manchester United/Chelsea v Manchester City

Ties to be played April 13/14

Manchester City will play either rivals Manchester United or fellow Barclays Premier League giants Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-finals.

The draw, conducted at Wembley immediately after United's 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Old Trafford, pitched the eventual winners of the replay against City.

Millwall and Blackburn also drew earlier in the day and will replay on Wednesday, with the winner to face Wigan.

The semi-finals will be played at Wembley over the weekend of April 13 and 14.

Comeback: Chelsea came from 2-0 down against Manchester United at Old Trafford to force a replay

Comeback: Chelsea came from 2-0 down against Manchester United at Old Trafford to force a replay

Crushing: Manchester City thrashed Barnsley 5-0 on Saturday evening to secure their spot in the semis

Crushing: Manchester City thrashed Barnsley 5-0 on Saturday evening to secure their spot in the semis

Chelsea boss Rafael Benitez was given
the first chance to respond to the eye-catching draw, but was unwilling
to look any further ahead than his side's replay against United.

'We have to think about the first game
and, afterwards, think about City,' he told ITV. 'It will be tough,
will be difficult, United are a great side.'

Javier Hernandez and Wayne
Rooney gave United a 2-0 lead inside 11 minutes at Old Trafford this
afternoon, but well-taken second-half goals from Eden Hazard and Ramires
earned Chelsea a replay.

City, in contrast, brushed off npower
Championship side Barnsley 5-0 yesterday as Carlos Tevez shrugged off
his latest off-field controversy to score a hat-trick and set up his
side's other two goals.

Wembley bound: Wigan will face either Millwall or Blackburn in the semis after beating Everton 3-0

Wembley bound: Wigan will face either Millwall or Blackburn in the semis after beating Everton 3-0

Wigan produced arguably the
performance of quarter-final weekend to beat Everton 3-0 yesterday with
goals from Maynor Figueroa, Callum McManaman and Jordi Gomez in less
than four minutes in the first half.

Millwall and Blackburn played out a
goalless draw at The Den, Andy Keogh hitting the post and Danny Shittu
stretching keeper Jake Kean with a 40-yard bolt from the blue as the
hosts created the better chances.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan described a
potential Wembley date with Blackburn as a 'dream' – and revealed he may
lead the team out himself.

Stalemate: Millwall and Blackburn will need a replay after a goalless draw at The Den on Sunday

Stalemate: Millwall and Blackburn will need a replay after a goalless draw at The Den on Sunday

As a player, Whelan played in the 1960
final for Rovers but saw his Wembley dream turn sour as a broken leg
forced him off before half-time.

'The dream is there,' he told Sky
Sports News. 'All Blackburn have got to do now is get through the replay
and my dream is on, I can go to Wembley and (we can) play against
Blackburn Rovers.

'When you've been to Wembley and got
what I got, a broken leg and Rovers went on to lose 3-0, it's very
upsetting. I feel I've got unfinished business at Wembley.

'Roberto's asked me to lead them out at Wembley and if we get Blackburn, I may just say yes.'

Holders: Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final last year and are on course for another trip to Wembley

Holders: Chelsea beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final last year and are on course for another trip to Wembley

Glory: Manchester City won the FA Cup in 2011 when they beat Stoke 1-0 in the final

Glory: Manchester City won the FA Cup in 2011 when they beat Stoke 1-0 in the final

McManaman is one of a host of fringe
players to have excelled in the Latics' cup run and Whelan said: 'Roberto's played his young boys – one of them, McManaman, scored a
great goal yesterday – so it's done us good all round.

'The performance they put on at
Everton was stunning, in the first half we played Everton off the park
and should've been four up.'

The run to the last four contrasts
with Wigan's seemingly annual struggle for Premier League survival,
which the pragmatic Whelan admits has to remain their priority.

'We have to stay in the top flight,
that's number one,' he said. 'But the FA Cup is still a fantastic trophy
and we've never been to a final.

'To win the cup and stay in the
league, that's the dream isn't it And to get to the Europa League,
that's unthinkable for Wigan Athletic. It would be wonderful.'

Carl Froch thinks Tony Bellew sparring sessions could be tougher than Yusaf Mack

Froch says heavy sparring sessions with Bellew could be harder than Mack title fight

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UPDATED:

20:50 GMT, 6 November 2012

Carl Froch believes his explosive sparring sessions with fellow Englishman Tony Bellew ahead of next week's IBF title defence against Yusaf Mack could prove to be tougher than the fight itself.

The Nottingham super-middleweight regularly trades blows with his fiery compatriot in training and despite their friendship, the pair are unashamedly spiteful inside the ring.

Froch, 35, also benefits from his connections with the Team GB set-up due to trainer Rob McCracken's role as performance director in Sheffield and regularly spars with the cream of the country's amateur talent.

Hard work: Carl Froch has been involved in some heavy sparring sessions with Tony Bellew

Hard work: Carl Froch has been involved in some heavy sparring sessions with Tony Bellew

Fierce: Bellew does not take it easy in training

Fierce: Bellew does not take it easy in training

Ahead of his November 17 defence against Mack in Nottingham he has worked with two former amateur stars – Commonwealth Games gold medalist Courtney Fry and ex-Olympic hopeful Callum Smith – as well as Liverpudlian hardman Bellew.

All three are natural light-heavyweights and should prepare Froch well for his meeting with Philadelphian Mack, who is dropping down from that division to attempt to spring a massive upset.

'Sometimes sparring is tougher than the actual fight,” Froch said. 'It's very intense, especially with Tony Bellew because we don't pull any punches in there.

'We train and spar like we're fighting because that's how you need to be. You need to get that mindset and let your big shots go, because what you do in sparring and training, you do on fight night too.

'It can be very tough, but it's all part and parcel of it.'

Froch added: 'Courtney Fry is a
light-heavyweight, Tony Bellew is a very strong light-heavyweight and
Callum Smith is going to fight at super-middleweight as a professional
but had stepped up to light-heavyweight as an amateur before turning
pro.

'They are all big lads, tall and rangy and strong. It's a big advantage to get great sparring. It's is one of the most important aspects of your training camp and sometimes you struggle to get the sparring. You fly them in from America and they don't want to be here, you get them from Europe and stay a week before going home.

'But we've got serious fighters here who are serious about the sport and want to do well.

Serious: Froch says sparring can give you a big advantage

Serious: Froch says sparring can give you a big advantage

'Tony Bellew is on the fringes of fighting for a world title. Callum is eager, he's just turned pro and wants to show he's a contender.

'We've never used Courtney Fry for sparring before but he's tall and rangy and throws a lot of straight punches like Mack and he's bigger and heavier than me.

'So it's been brilliant to have good, all-round sparring this camp.'

Froch defends the belt he won in May – with a five-round bludgeoning of Lucian Bute – at the Trent FM Arena in his native Nottingham a week on Saturday.

On the defensive: Froch is fighting for the belt he beat Lucian Bute to win

On the defensive: Froch is fighting for the belt he beat Lucian Bute to win

He does so with a slight injury inflicted by Fry in one of their recent sessions.

'I got elbowed on the nose on Friday but it's nothing serious,' said 'The Cobra'.

'It's nothing serious, I got some butterfly stitches put on as a precautionary measure, more than anything else, because I didn't want it to get any worse.

'It happened in round one of the sparring session and I did a 12-round spar that day, we just patched it up and went again. It's fine and it's healed up.'

Under fire Clark calls for more bravery from Birmingham players after latest home loss

Under-fire Clark calls for more bravery from Birmingham players after latest home loss

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UPDATED:

19:31 GMT, 6 October 2012

Under-pressure Birmingham boss Lee Clark called for his players to stand up and be counted and stop hiding behind him after City were again booed off following another home defeat.

A hurt Clark cut a frustrated figure following this afternoon's 1-0 defeat to former employers Huddersfield, leaving Blues fourth-bottom in the npower Championship.

Former Sunderland and Newcastle player Lee Clark

Under the spotlight: Lee Clark is feeling the heat after another home defeat

Blues' fifth defeat from 10 games was a second successive setback on home soil in the league for the first time in 19 months, and came after the abject 5-0 rout by Barnsley, the club's biggest home league defeat in 25 years.

Reports of a player revolt were dismissed this week but Clark saw his side put in a disappointing display, especially in the first half, and felt his charges handed the initiative to the visitors from the first whistle due to a lack of competitiveness.

Jermaine Beckford's 25th-minute strike settled matters for high-flying Huddersfield, while substitute Nikola Zigic was sent off 16 minutes from time for a high challenge on Callum Woods.

Clark said: 'It's our home, it's where the majority of our fans are. They come to see us and want to see a performance. Any football fan in the world wants to see a bit of drive.

'Some good tackles are as good as a good shot, they get the crowd lifted, they get them behind the team, they drive you forward.

Jermaine Beckford of Huddersfield Town scores a goal to make the score 0-1

Twisting the knife: Huddersfield's Jermaine Beckford scores to inflict another loss on Lee Clark – this time against his former club

'Football fans are working-class people, they want to see someone having a right good go for their team, in terms of tackling, heading, competing.

'You see the size of me, I'm not a big fella but I competed, I put my head in there, I put my foot in there. Maybe seven times out of 10 the opposition came through me with the ball but I was still putting some sort of challenge in.

'There were four of five players in the first half who never did that. They've got to stand up and be counted.

'Okay, I'm responsible but I can't keep saying that. Can they start taking responsibility

'I'm getting the flak from supporters, no problem I can take that. But I'm not sitting in the dressing room telling them not to tackle, to pussyfoot around, telling them to mis-place passes.

'They can't just hide behind me all the time, they've got to come out fighting.'

Huddersfield boss Simon Grayson backed Clark to turn things around at St Andrew's after watching his side end a run of back-to-back home defeats with a third successive win on the road.

It takes Town – who were impressive here, more so in the first half – up to sixth in the table.

'I think deservedly we got the win, getting any points in the Championship is never easy,' Grayson said.

'We started the game very well, very brightly, pressurised Birmingham when we needed to, played in the right areas with purpose and created some good opportunities. I'm delighted from that point of view.

'The back end of the game when Birmingham had nothing to lose we were resilient and withstood some pressure.

'To come here and get a result is satisfying from my point of view after two tough previous defeats.'

Stewart Downing relieved with Liverpool win over Hearts

Downing relieved to scrape through as Liverpool edge out Hearts

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UPDATED:

00:46 GMT, 31 August 2012

Liverpool's Stewart Downing admits his team found life tough against Hearts as they edged out their Scottish opponents in the Europa League play-offs.

The Reds held a 1-0 advantage ahead of the return match at Anfield, but that was cancelled out when goalkeeper Jose Reina let a David Templeton shot squeeze through after 85 minutes.

Extra-time appeared to be on the cards but Luis Suarez then grabbed an equaliser two minutes from the end to see Liverpool sneak into the group stage 2-1 on aggregate.

Scraping through: Liverpool scored a late aggregate winner

Scraping through: Liverpool scored a late aggregate winner

Midfielder Downing, who was employed at left-back by manager Brendan Rodgers, was relieved to get through to the next round.

'We knew it was going to be tough,' he said on ESPN. 'We made more hard work of it than we should have done.

'We were a little bit wasteful in front of goal.

'However, the manager stressed to the team 'don't go down under pressure', and I think we bounced back well.

'We created lots of chances we didn't finish though and we have to be more clinical in front of goal. That was a lesson for us.'

Rodgers was also happy to progress but full of praise for Hearts' performance.

'The objective was to get into the group stage and we got there,' said the Northern Irishman.

Up in the air: Stewart Downing (left) challenges Hearts' Callum Paterson

Up in the air: Stewart Downing (left) challenges Hearts' Callum Paterson

'We made hard work of it but congratulations to Hearts, they played well and it was always going to be a difficult game for us.

'We were wasteful tonight but we got through, which was the most important thing.

'Hearts worked hard but Jose Reina was never really threatened in goal. But we still needed to respond to their goal and we got that response.

'We didn't lose the game which is important. The boys have been excellent so far this season, I can have no complaints.

'They had to dig in a wee bit tonight, it was important we kept the faith but that final ball just didn't allow us to get the goal a bit earlier. But I'm delighted to get through.'

Gutted: Hearts players are dejected after being knocked out

Gutted: Hearts players are dejected after being knocked out

Hearts boss John McGlynn could not fault his team's display after pushing Liverpool all the way.

'I'm very proud of the players,' he said. 'The effort they put in was beyond our wildest dreams.

'We had a great shape about us and caused one or two problems. We got ourselves in front but just couldn't hold on.

'To take Liverpool so close but not come out on top is disappointing but a great achievement for us.

'The fans have also shown their appreciation. They came here and sang their hearts out for 90 minutes and stayed behind at the end of the game as well.

'This must give us a lot of confidence. To take Liverpool so close, we must take that into the SPL league.'

London 2012 Olympics: Savannah Marshall going for gold

Newly crowned world champion Marshall determined to box her way to gold

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UPDATED:

16:20 GMT, 21 May 2012

Golden girl: Savannah Marshall

Golden girl: Savannah Marshall

Savannah Marshall has vowed to follow up her historic women's world boxing title win by claiming Olympic gold – and inspire the rest of the 10-strong Great Britain team to believe they can do the same.

Marshall became Britain's first women's world champion when she beat Elena Vystropova 17-15 in the middleweight final in Qinhuangdao, China on Saturday, on what was also the Hartlepool fighter's 21st birthday.

Marshall flew back to big celebrations in her home town and said: 'The response has been amazing. I can't believe it's all for me. Seeing how much it means to everyone makes me even more determined to win Olympic gold.

'I am going to the Olympics as world champion but I won't feel any extra pressure. I just go out there to box my best and it makes no difference what people are saying about me.'

Among those offering his congratulations was men's middleweight and fellow Olympic qualifier Anthony Ogogo, with whom Marshall has sparred many rounds at their training base at the English Institute of Sport.

Ogogo said: 'Before I sparred with Savannah I'd never sparred with a girl before so of course you think about taking it easy and not punching too hard – but I soon realised Savannah could give as good as she got.

'I think we have both benefited enormously from our sparring sessions. Savannah winning the world title will give the whole British team a lift, and help us all find that extra five per cent that might make the difference.'

Great Britain performance director Rob McCracken said Marshall's sparring sessions with both Ogogo and British light-heavyweight Callum Smith had helped play a major part in her rise to the world title.

Eyes on the prize: Marshall (left) boxes her way to the world title

Eyes on the prize: Marshall (left) boxes her way to the world title

'Savannah has benefited from sparring Anthony and Callum,' said McCracken. 'We have really stepped it up in recent months and her stamina and footwork have improved enormously.'

Marshall arrived home from China on Sunday night to a party at Hartlepool's Headland Gym, where she first started boxing at the age of 12 despite the reservations of her coach Tim Coulter.

Coulter said: 'Savannah deserves everything she gets for all the hard work and dedication she has put in over the years. She certainly proved me wrong and now I see no reason why she shouldn't go on and win Olympic gold.'

Despite the plaudits there seems little danger of Marshall getting carried away by her success. Notoriously reticent in interviews, she admits she is still struggling to come to terms with the magnitude of her achievement.

No 1: Marshall celebrates her win against Elena Vystropova of Azerbaijan

No 1: Marshall celebrates her win against Elena Vystropova of Azerbaijan

Marshall added: 'When I started boxing I dreamed about things like this but I never really thought it would happen. Women's boxing wasn't even in the Olympic Games. I just boxed because I loved doing it.'

Marshall is one of the maximum quota of three Great British women to qualify for the Olympics. Nicola Adams will fight at flyweight after winning a silver medal in Qinhuangdao, while bronze medallist Natasha Jonas competes at lightweight.

The trio – plus the seven male qualifiers – Andrew Selby, Luke Campbell, Josh Taylor, Thomas Stalker, Fred Evans, Ogogo and Anthony Joshua – will be officially unveiled at a British Olympic Association press conference next month.

Celtic 1 St Johnstone 0: Stokes lights up low-key affair as fringe players fail to shine

Celtic 1 St Johnstone 0: Stokes lights up low-key affair as fringe players fail to shine

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UPDATED:

00:42 GMT, 4 May 2012

Celtics' charity stopped short of
giving St Johnstone a helping hand to qualify for Europe as Neil
Lennon’s weakened champions maintained the chasm at the top of the SPL
table.

A night which began with a pre-match
concert from the Thai Tims ended with a fifth successive league win
which underscored the manager’s intention to end the season with the
foot firmly on the gas.

Happy 21st: Celtic's Anthony Stokes scores the only goal

Happy 21st: Celtic's Anthony Stokes scores the only goal

MATCH FACTS

Celtic: Zaluska, Mark Wilson (Cha 74), Kelvin Wilson, Rogne, Izaguirre, McGeouch (Hooper 68), Wanyama, Ledley, Commons (Ibrahim 74), Bangura, Stokes. Subs Not Used: Forster, Brozek, Lustig, Blackman.

Goals: Stokes 28.

St Johnstone: Mannus, Maybury, McCracken, Anderson, Callum Davidson, Millar (Riordan 42), Morris, Adams (Haber 76), Murray Davidson,
Craig, Sheridan. Subs Not Used: Enckelman, Moon, Oyenuga, Moffat, Hutchinson.

Booked: McCracken.

Att: 50,297

Ref: Crawford Allan (Scotland).

Lennon watched his third successive game from the stand courtesy of a second touchline ban from the SFA kicking in, yet the bird’s-eye view was again to his pleasing. While he would doubtless prefer to be in the dugout, his temporary vantage point might just be growing on him.

It’s not often that pre-match entertainment can drag fans into a ground half an hour before kick-off but many in the 45,000 crowd were in place for that reason last night.

A club formed for charitable purposes 124 years ago went back to its roots to fly 42 disadvantaged children from Asia to Glasgow for a week they, and indeed those who saw them perform, will never forget.

After a pre-match concert in the centre circle, they took their place in the stand to watch a contest that, in truth, rarely set the pulse racing.

With a massive lead at the top of the table and Rangers swatted aside with ease on Sunday, Lennon was afforded a luxury rarely afforded to managers — scope for an experimental line-up in a competitive game.

Banned: Celtic's manager Neil Lennon watches from the stands

Banned: Celtic's manager Neil Lennon watches from the stands

He made seven changes from the side that
started on Sunday, a selection that, in the cases of Emilio Izaguirre
and Mo Bangura, gave game time to players whose seasons have been badly
hit by injury.

Dylan McGeough, the midfielder whose stunning solo goal against St
Mirren was voted the best of the season by fans, was rewarded for his
promise with a first start while Mark Wilson, a likely departure this
summer, wore the armband.

The five-man midfield predictably shaped by Steve Lomas served to
frustrate Celtic in the early exchanges, with Murray Davidson and Jamie
Adams knocking their counterparts out of any kind of rhythm.

Crunch: St Johnstone's Jamie Adams (right) collides with Celtic's Kris Commons

Crunch: St Johnstone's Jamie Adams (right) collides with Celtic's Kris Commons

When Thomas Rogne went back to front with a searching diagonal, Anthony
Stokes had no shortage of options but his attempt to pick out the
onrushing McGeough at the far post was poorly executed.

The yellow shirted-visitors forced a succession of early set-pieces but
none came close to testing the sharpness of Lukasz Zaluska, the Polish
keeper another who was enjoying a rare first-team run-out.

St Johnstone must just have been fancying their chances of taking what
would have been deemed a bonus point in their quest for Europe when they
fell behind from what, from Lomas’s perspective, was an extremely cheap
goal to lose.

McGeough fed a short corner to Kris Commons, who rolled the ball on to
Victor Wanyama. The Kenyan’s deft chip was helped on in turn by Mark
Wilson and Stokes applied the finishing touch from five yards.

Crocked: The assistant referee sits on the pitch after sustaining an injury

Crocked: The assistant referee sits on the pitch after sustaining an injury

Bangura had been busy enough up until that point without really
threatening. Sixty seconds after the opener, he almost claimed his first
goal in a Celtic shirt by turning onto Commons’ pass and firing low.
The outstretched arm of Alan Mannus denied him his moment of joy.

Referee Crawford Allan dipped into his pocket for the first time to
caution David McCracken for tripping Stokes before Commons tried his
luck from the resulting set-piece. Mannus moved his feet quickly to
deny the midfielder.

Saints’ early promise faded the more the first half wore on. A rare
set-piece was teed up by Liam Craig 20 yards out but his normally trusty
left foot failed him as the ball arced the wrong side of Zaluska’s
post.

Lomas was forced to replace the injured Chris Millar with Derek Riordan
three minutes from the break and, as Celtic looked for any change in
formation, their defence temporarily switched off.

Flying the flag: The Thai Tims perform before the game

Flying the flag: The Thai Tims perform before the game

Jody Morris played a delicious ball in behind the back four which, if
anything, gave Murray Davidson too much time to think. Credit to
Zaluska, though for standing up big and blocking with his legs.

Celtic started the second half on the front foot. Joe Ledley’s volley
was parried by Mannus but Commons was unable to prevent his follow-up
shot from flying over. The Saints keeper then did well to keep an eye on
Commons’ free-kick as it breached the defensive wall.

Bangura was next to try his luck, turning McCracken inside out, only for his shot to rebound off the post.

Having enjoyed a lucky break, Saints almost levelled three minutes
later. Wanyama ran into trouble on the edge of his box and was thankful
that Morris’s chip drifted wide.

While the deficit remained a single goal, Saints’ heads remained up.
What a pity, from their point of view, that Cillian Sheridan hadn’t
thrown himself at Riordan’s cross with 12 minutes remaining. The target
looked to be at his mercy but he seemed to give up the ball.

Celtic thought they had doubled their lead in the closing seconds but
substitute Gary Hooper’s was offside as he tapped in fellow sub Rabiu
Ibrahim’s goal-bound effort.

There was one final change to the line-ups. Linesman Raymond Whyte
pulled up injured, forcing fourth official David Somers to replace him.

There was even some sympathetic applause for the crocked official as he made his way up the tunnel. A world first surely.

Andrew Strauss again fails to silence his critics as pressure mounts on England skipper

Strauss again fails to silence his critics as pressure mounts on England skipper

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UPDATED:

19:22 GMT, 21 April 2012

Andrew Strauss says he hates his
players having to come out and defend him over his position in the
England side and his right to lead it.

After his second failure in two LV
Championship innings against Durham at Lord's yesterday, he might be in
for a little more displeasure yet.

No one is seriously saying that
Strauss, winner of Ashes series at home and away and driving force
behind the transformation that culminated in England reaching the No1
world ranking, will not be back here on May 17 shaking hands with his
West Indies counterpart Darren Sammy.

Bad run of form: Andrew Strauss is bowled by Graham Onions

Bad run of form: Andrew Strauss is bowled by Graham Onions

It is just that, after the winter he has suffered with the bat, everyone is concerned that he finds the form that would render any assertion to the contrary as absurd as he and England, and the vast majority of supporters and observers, believe it should be.

His duck on the opening day of his season was bad enough. But facing just two balls from Graham Onions before hearing the rattle behind him were nothing by which to judge his current state.

His effort made even more uncomfortable viewing, however, as his six runs took 25 balls, of which only a handful located any part of the bat and only a couple the middle of it.

Tearing it up: Graham Onions in action

Tearing it up: Graham Onions in action

His first contact with the ball steered it towards Callum Thorp in the gully and had the Durham man held it Strauss would be starting a fortnight's gap in Midddlesex' fixture list with a pair to his name.

Onions, who finished with six for 45 as Middlesex's first innings collapsed, demonstrated how lucky England are to have him in the wings. But Strauss, by his own admission, needs runs before the Test summer starts.

Weight of the world: Andrew Strauss has plenty on his mind

Weight of the world: Andrew Strauss has plenty on his mind

With no cricket between now and May 3 for him to play and a maximum of four more innings every knock that goes by without them from now on will only serve to turn largely imagined pressure into the real thing.

Elsewhere, while Kevin Pietersen's 64-ball IPL century may have been what 'dreams are made of', Ravi Bopara will be hoping that his four and three-quarter hour 117 against Yorkshire is the beginning of the end of his England nightmare.

Supporters of the Essex batting all-rounder will not need reminding nearly five years have passed since his Test debut, against Sri Lanka in Kandy, nor that he has played a total of just 12 Tests.

This time last year, despite opting for the opportunity to press his claims with early season Championship runs ahead of a lucrative IPL contract, the place in England's Test XI vacated by Paul Collingwood went instead to Eoin Morgan, the Middlesex left-hander who had done the exact opposite.

But after missing the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle with a side strain, his unbeaten 117 out of Essex's 199, with 18 fours, should have settled the issue, especially with Morgan, out of favour with England after his poor series against Pakistan in the UAE, marooned in India with a Kolkata Knight Riders franchise who have thus far chosen not to pick him.

Not only did Bopara produce the runs that England are looking for, the fact that he carried his bat from 24 for 2 in response to Yorkshire's 246 demonstrated the kind of application they have waited so long to see.

Andrew Strauss starts with duck

Strauss starts with duck as Onions tears into Middlesex

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UPDATED:

19:43 GMT, 20 April 2012

Andrew Strauss began the summer that
could decide his future as England's Test captain with a second-ball
duck at Lord's on Friday.

The Middlesex left-hander had his off stump knocked back as he played forward to Durham's Graham Onions.

Weather for ducks: Strauss forced to watch after going second ball to Onions (right)

Weather for ducks: Strauss forced to watch after going second ball to Onions (right)

Weather for ducks: Strauss forced to watch after falling to Onions (right)

Neither Strauss nor Neil Dexter are
skippering Middlesex, with the latter also feeling the pressures of
leadership and handing over the reins to Chris Rogers.

The move worked for Dexter, who led a recovery from two for three by remaining unbeaten on 65 as Middlesex reached 132 for five before bad light stopped play prematurely.

Crying game: Onions removes Strauss second ball

Crying game: Onions removes Strauss second ball

Onions wants his England place back after being leapfrogged by Steven Finn, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan since missing the 2010 season following a back operation.

After the first day's washout, Onions bowled superbly to take three of the wickets, swinging the ball both ways at a healthy pace.

In the helpful early conditions, Onions had Joe Denly caught at first slip by Paul Collingwood for one, then Sam Robson drove at the first ball of the next over from Callum Thorp and edged to Michael Di Venuto at second slip.